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Malta launches bid to host European Medicines Agency

Regulator employs 900 and receives up to 36,000 visitors a year

Minister Chris Fearne (right) announced Malta's bid. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Minister Chris Fearne (right) announced Malta's bid. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Malta has officially launched an ambitious bid to host the prestigious European Medicines Agency, which will leave its current London home as a result of Brexit.

With its announcement, the island joins several other countries vying to host the influential regulatory body, in a crowded field expected to encompass practically all EU member states.

Established in 1995, the EMA employs a staff of 900 scientists and officials and receives as many as 36,000 visitors a year. The regulator tests and licences all medications for use within the EU, with its authorisations covering more than a quarter of all global pharmaceutical sales.

Announcing the bid this evening, Malta Medicines Authority chairman Anthony Serracino Inglott said that if the country’s bid was successful, EMA staff would benefit from state-of-the art premises, free healthcare and education systems, a growing research community, and job opportunities in a thriving economy not dominated by the pharmaceutical industry.

He also highlighted the availability of a multilingual workforce, the abundance of affordable housing, and the favourable climate.

With British Prime Minister Theresa May expected to invoke Article 50 on March 29, the EMA relocation would have to take place before April 2019.

Prof. Serracino Inglott said Maltese authorities had already met with Malta Enterprise and the Planning Authority to discuss options for the required 30,000 square metre premises, with existing buildings and new constructions both being considered.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said all local stakeholders were “enthusiastically” supporting the bid, including the University of Malta, unions and the private sector, stressing that Malta had all the requisites to successfully host the agency.

Speaking earlier at a press conference in Valletta, European Commissioner for Health Vytenis Andriukaitis said the process of selecting the EMA’s post-Brexit host would begin as soon as Article 50 was triggered.

Although the EU will follow the selection criteria established in 2012, Mr Andriukaitis noted that the current situation was unprecedented and raised a number of new technical questions, which would be presented to the council immediately.

Several other countries have already submitted their bids to host the agency, including Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France, Italy, Ireland and Poland. As many as 20 are expected to announce similar intentions at some point.

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